The Last Ride


I step out of my truck and feel the cool breeze on my skin in contrast to the hot sun beating down on my face. I put on my ball cap, partially to keep my nose from looking like Rudolph, and partially to keep my unruly hair from flying around my head.

Before I make it three steps, I hear Merlin calling me from his stall. "Hang on buddy, I'm coming." I walk on the dirt path to the barn and open the gate, my gray gelding almost knocking me down as he comes over to say hi. He rubs his head on my shoulder as I slip the halter over his face. "Want to go for a ride?" I ask like I expect an answer. He keeps nodding his head at me, so I take that as a yes. We walk side by side to the hitching rail next to my tack room. He watches my every move while I get out the brush box. "No grain yet buddy, that comes after the ride" I could swear he understands every word because he starts nodding his head at me.

I think I enjoy brushing him as much as he does. I wish someone would take care of me like I do him, brush my hair, and give me baths. I carefully brush all of the dust out of his short summer coat and undo the tangles from his silky mane and tail. He enjoys every bit of his grooming time and stands patiently as I tack him up for our ride. I tie a halter and lead rope to the saddle in case we stop to rest, just in case he wants to graze (like he wouldn't, the pig). I stretch my leg far as I can and get it into the stirrup and pull my self up into the saddle, swinging my right leg over and settling onto his back. Nothing like the feeling of power you get from riding a horse.

I set off for our afternoon ride, walking on the shoulder of the road, watching the cars zoom by. I'm so busy enjoying the time on my horse; I don't even notice the truck that slows as it passes us, the head turning in the driver's seat watching us walk down the street. I'm not even sure I noticed when the car made a U-turn and passed us again.

We kept up a quick pace at the walk, off the paved road and onto a dirt farm road that led into the hills. There are access roads that are kept open so the rangers can get through the park, and the ranchers can check the surrounding pastures. The roads are great horse trails, only occasional trucks drive by. Merlin's ears prick up and I look in the same direction to see the hawk flying over our heads. I laugh and remind him of the first hawk he ever saw, when he almost dumped me on the trail as we came over a hill and the hawk swooped close to his head.

We were both so intent on watching the hawk, we almost ran into the truck parked on the side of the road. The driver stood watching over the bed of the truck and smiled at my surprised look as I stopped my horse in front of him, almost smacking into his truck. "Oh my god, I'm sorry." I stuttered.

He laughed. "No problem, you look like you were enjoying the view, so am I." He laughed again, and I wasn't sure which view he was talking about. Was he watching the hawk too?

"Well, have a nice day. " I said as I smiled and rode off farther down the road.

I heard him say, "Oh I will." Seemed like a strange remark, but whatever.

We'd been walking for a few miles when I heard a sound behind me, a diesel truck I could tell. I moved to the right side of the road so he'd have plenty of room to get past us. Sure enough, it was that same truck. He must be renting one of the pastures up here. He's sure not a park ranger. He was, however, very good looking; tall, nice build, and a mustache. I don't know why, but I have a big thing for guys with mustaches. Don't know why I'm thinking bout how good he looks, I don't even know him.

I keep riding up the hill, figuring I'll stop at the clearing for Merlin to take a break. There's a meadow, lots of tall grass, and a big tree so I can get out of the sun. Sure enough, as we walk into the meadow, I see the truck parked under the tree. "Fancy meeting you here." I laugh as I say it.

He smiles wide; a great smile I must say. "Not a coincidence you know. I've been watching you, for a long time." Just as he said that I got a kind of creepy feeling, but it was too late. He had a hold of Merlin's reins and had him stopped at his truck. So quick I couldn't move, he had a hold of my arm and dragged me out of the saddle onto the ground, my butt hitting hard on the packed dirt. He pulled the bridle off Merlin's head and shooed him away. Merlin stopped not too far away and dropped his head to graze. "He'll be all right while we get to know each other."

I watched Merlin who seemed so far away. If he was closer I might make it onto his back, and if I just gave him a kick, he'd take me home, bridle or not. But there was no way I could make it to him fast enough. I felt his arms close around me and pick me up easily from the ground. I was shaking so bad, I thought my teeth were going to start chattering. I couldn't look at his face, but he held me with one arm and grabbed my chin and pulled it up. "Now, what should we do to pass the time Karen?"

Oh my god, he knew my name. I felt a knot in my stomach. This was more than a chance encounter, this was planned. "How did you know my name?" I stuttered.

He laughed as he pulled me to a spot under the tree. "I know a lot of things about you, more than just your name." I was starting to go into a panic, I couldn't think, my legs were like jello; there was a pain in the pit of my stomach. I just knew I would never ride Merlin home. "I remember that dun gelding you used to have." I couldn't believe it, that was no guess, and that horse had been dead for years. Anyone could have guessed a bay or something, but a dun? He knew.

"How do you remember him?" I managed to say in a croaking kind of voice. He was still holding me close to him, in a vise grip. I couldn't even move an inch. I could smell his aftershave though. I recognized it, Old Spice. I used to buy it every year for my father. Thank god he didn't smell like old sweat or dirty socks anyway. Weird what you think of when you're petrified.

"I used to board at the same stable as you. I watched you every day when you took him out to ride him. King was his name if I remember correctly."

I looked at him in amazement. "Th-th that's right." I stammered.

"You always seemed so lonely, never saw you with anyone. I wondered if you had a guy at home. Then one day your horse was gone, and I didn't see you again til a few months ago when I drove by and saw you riding the gray. I recognized you right away."

He smiled that great smile and I wasn't sure what to say. "I'm sorry, I don't remember you." Well that was a dumb thing to say to a stalker/kidnapper isn't it? I never was too bright about men or able to think fast on my feet.

But he surprised me with his answer. "Well you were too shy to talk to anyone, I don't take it personally. But you will remember me after today."

"I will?" I managed to get out, looking up at him.

He laughed again and reached up to pull off my ball cap. He reached behind my head and pulled out the hair clip and took out my braid, pulling my hair around my shoulders. "There, that's better, I like it better with your hair down."

"Ok" was all I said.

"Sit down and don't try to run. I'm a lot faster than you." He gave me a look that I took to mean he meant business. I sat cross-legged and watched as he detached the reins from my bridle. What the heck was he gonna do with those? I didn't have long to find out. He walked behind me and used one of the reins to tie my hands behind my back. "If you don't struggle, it won't hurt as much." Famous last words I thought to myself. Then he bent over in front of me to tie my ankles together. He picked me up and threw me in the passenger side of the truck, in front of the seat, on the floor. He threw a blanket over me, and I could hear him getting into the driver's side. I heard him turn the key and the diesel started up.

All I could think was I would never see Merlin again. I was sure he'd be ok though, he'll go back to the ranch and they'll send people out looking for me, figuring I got smacked by a tree branch or something. They sure won't be looking for a pick up truck with a woman hidden on the floorboards.

I saw the corner of the blanket lift up as he stuffed a rag in my mouth. "Almost forgot," he laughed. Well, so much for yelling for help at a stop sign or something. The engine noise was so loud in my ears, it drown out almost everything else. He had the radio blasting too, KFRC, my favorite. He was singing to himself, "Love potion number niiiiiiiiiine, I didn't know if it was day or night, I started kissing everything in sight, but when I kissed a cop down at 34th and vine, he broke my little bottle offfff, love potion number ninnnnnnnne." He had a nice, deep singing voice. But that song will never be fun for me again after today.

We seemed to drive for a while, I kind of lost track of time. They played at least 10 songs on the radio and a ton of commercials. And lots of stupid patter from the DJ's. I just wanted to tell them to shut the fuck up, there was more important stuff going on than their little cutesy patter. All of a sudden I noticed the light go dimmer, and I realized we had stopped. The engine shut off, the smell of diesel in my nose was making me cough; but I couldn't really because of the rag in my mouth and I started to choke. The door opened and I almost fell out, but he caught me and reached under the blanket and pulled the rag out of my mouth, letting me finish my coughing fit.

"You ok? I don't want to lose you now." I was still trying to catch my breath as he lifted me out of the truck and walked through a door into what must have been his house.

"Now, these are the rules. #1, you will address me as Sir at all times. #2, you will speak only when spoken to. #3, you will not be allowed to leave this house alone, only with supervision. #4, your name is no longer Karen, it is Lynn. #5, you will have no contact with anyone from your former life. This is your life now and you will accept that. There will be no attempts at escape without extreme punishment. Do you understand?"

He looked down at me, lying tied on the floor, and I know this was stupid but I said it anyway. "You're kidding right?"

He picked me up off the floor like I was a rag doll as he answered me. "I assure you I'm not! I've planned this for a long time and I don't intend on letting anything stand in my way." My ears were ringing, this just seemed so outrageous. He dropped me into what I think was a hot tub, my hands and feet still tied. I sank to the bottom and tried to hold my breath. My lungs were about to explode when he pulled me up. I gasped for air and then he let go and I sank again. When he pulled me up, I gasped for air and tried to yell something out, but he let me drop mid yell so I got a mouth full of water. It seemed forever before he pulled me up again and I tried to spit the water out and grab a breath but again, I got a mouth full of water instead of air. He did this several more times, I thought several times he was going to let me drown, but he pulled me up just in the nick of time every time. "Are you ready to behave?"

I gasped out a "yes", barely able to breath, my whole body ready to collapse from lack of oxygen. He pulled me out of the tub and dropped me on the floor with a thud. I laid there gasping for air and coughing up water. I was exhausted and could barely move a muscle.

He reached down and undid the rein holding my legs. "Now follow me Lynn"

I followed him slowly through the house. My legs were shaking so bad I almost fell several times. Once, he reached back and grabbed my hair, pulling me back upright. I screamed as my scalp felt like it was on fire. He didn't even turn around, but I heard him say, "You'll get used to that, and the screaming had better stop! Or I'll really give you something to scream about. And that might be very amusing."

I could hear him laughing softly as we started walking up the stairs. It was a narrow stairwell and he held my hair tight, tugging whenever I lagged too far behind. I couldn't see with my head pulled down so when he stopped I ran full into him. "You'll be punished for that Lynn." it took me a second to figure out he was talking to me. I'd forgotten already that he had given me a new name.

"Punished for what?"

"Now the punishment is doubled". He said all of this very matter of factly, no anger and I was totally confused. As he opened the door, the hinges squeaked loudly. I could tell he hadn't opened this room for quite some time. He pulled me past him and turned me to face him. I stood there shivering in my wet clothes. It seemed the air was very crisp in this room, almost like a refrigerator. "Would you like to get those wet clothes off? I'll bet you would, you must be freezing."

I answered no, but my teeth start chattering of their own accord. I could see the smile on his lips, and I tried to look away, but he grabbed my chin, digging his fingers into my jaw, I could swear he probably left fingerprints. He stared into my eyes and I couldn't even try to look away, our eyes locked, I felt like he was looking into my soul, seeing something I had never known was there.

"You belong to me now. You can't hide anything anymore; I know you better than you know yourself. If you lie to me, I'll know and you will be punished severely. You are to always answer me honestly. Is that understood?"

"Yes sir." I answered through my chattering teeth. Hearing the 'Sir' come out of my mouth was a surprise, I didn't even think about it before I said it. I watched him smile as he heard it.

"Now, take off your clothes, and be quick about it. You're going to get pneumonia if you stand there much longer." He walked behind me and untied my wrists and then walked back to his place near the door. He leaned back and crossed his arms. "Well?" I stood there, petrified as this man watched me closely. I slowly pulled my t-shirt up, it had become like another skin, and it was stuck to me. I could see my nipples through my wet bra, and I could see that he had noticed. I kicked off my shoes and peeled off my jeans. I stood there in bra and panties and socks. He waited a minute and then I heard his booming voice "I said quickly!"

My skin crawled when I knew he wasn't going to be satisfied with just jeans and t-shirt. I bent over and took off my socks and threw them into the pile of clothes. I looked up and saw the impatient look on his face and I peeled the panties down my legs. I knew my shivering wasn't all from being soaked. I stood up and my hands shook almost uncontrollably as I unclasped my bra and took it off, adding it to the pile of clothing.

"That's better." He walked around me slowly, sizing me up I guess? "Now put the clothing in this box." He held out a box and I picked up the clothes and dropped them with a wet plop. I was freezing in this room. My feet felt like they were ice. In a flash, he had walked out the door, and I heard a bolt slide shut. I ran to the door and started pounding on it.

"Please, please let me out, I'm freezing in here!!"

I could hear his voice softly on the other side of the door. "I told you that you'd be punished. You have to learn that you are my slave, and your old life is over. You'll be punished many more times in any number of ways. But this is the beginning. When I come back, I'm sure you will be more cooperative".

I heard his footsteps go down the stairs. I kept pounding my fists against the door as I slowly fell to the floor crying. That's when I noticed. The floor was metal. No wonder my feet were so cold. As I looked around the room, I realized it wasn't a room at all; it was a walk in freezer. I stood up slowly, my arms wrapped around myself to try to get warm. It was then I noticed how hard and sensitive my nipples were right now. As I rubbed my hands up and down my arms, my forearms kept brushing across my erect nipples, and it was a distraction I really didn't need right now. I tried to clear my head. I was still a little fuzzy after the dunking in the tub. Or at least that was my excuse.

I kept walking around the freezer as I decided to call it. I figured it was the only way I could stay awake. That's all I needed was to fall asleep and become hypothermic or something. How long was he going to keep me in here? Time seemed to slow down and even my heartbeat seem so slow. I tried to keep my mind working, thinking of anything but what was happening to me. But all I kept thinking was if he lets me out of here and lets me get warm, I'll do anything he wants, anything!

I don't know how long I was in that freezer. I was so cold; I'd never been so cold before. I thought I heard a sound outside the door, but I was too afraid to get my hopes up. I was still walking in circles. I was so tired, and I'd tried to lie down, but the floor was unbearable to lay on it was so cold. I tried leaning against the wall to rest, but my skin would get so cold it would hurt. So I kept walking.

When the door opened, I thought it was a dream. He stood there at the hallway, watching me until I turned to look at him. "Would you like to warm up?"

I looked up at him and answered, "Yes sir". He smiled and held out a blanket for me. I slowly moved forward and held out my hand, afraid this was a sick joke and he'd take it back. He let me take the blanket and I wrapped it around my shoulders, enjoying the feeling of something against my skin other than the cold air.

"Follow me Lynn." I fell in step behind him, not caring where we were going as long as it was away from the freezer.

My feet started to warm up as we walked on the carpeted floors. And as they warmed up and the blood flowed freely again, it felt like a million needles being jabbed into my feet all at once. Half way down the staircase, I fell to the floor screaming. "My feet, oh my god, my feet, I think I have frostbite, I'm going to lose my toes" I was almost hysterical. OK, I was hysterical.

I couldn't stop crying, even when I felt his arms close around me, one arm under my legs and the other behind my back. He lifted me so easily I was amazed. And his warm body felt so good against my freezing skin. I brought my arms up to hold around his neck, loving the warmth radiating from him. Trying to get closer to it like a moth to aflame. He carried me into the living room and gently set me down on the couch.

The air was warm, the couch was warm, and everything but my feet was warming nicely. But my feet were still in horrible pain. I kept crying and his hand came up and wiped the tears from my eyes. "Lynn, see what happens when you're bad? If you're good, you'll never have to go back there. Well, maybe once in a while as a refresher, but today I had to make a point. Any punishment you receive is your own fault. You'll only have yourself to blame. I'm a fair man, and I've waited for you a long time. I've been patient, and my patience has grown thin. I expect you to learn quickly and you will be well cared for. Understood?"

I nodded and replied, "Yes sir." As he was talking, he was rubbing my feet, and looking into my eyes. The tingling finally started to subside. I whispered. "Thank you sir."

He smiled that knock out smile and brought out a box from under the couch. "I've been saving this for you." I watched him, straining to see what was in the box. He brought out a leather collar and leather cuffs. He fastened the cuffs to my wrists and ankles as I watched.

This all seemed so surreal. I was still scared, but he was being so nice. He was taking care of me right? He'd taken me out of that freezer. He took care of my feet, rubbing them until they were better. He'd carried me when I couldn't walk. I felt so confused. I was sure I wasn't supposed to be here, but I was unsure why. Then he took the collar and fastened it around my neck, carefully lifting my hair out of the way. He seemed so gentle. He put a padlock on the collar to hold it in place. I'm sure I still had that look of confusion in my face.

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